How Bulgaria Performed in 2014: Diplomats' Point of View
Novinite has asked the ambassadors with whom it has cooperated over the past twelve months to briefly assess what 2014 was like for Bulgaria.
Just over a week into 2015, we are publishing the answers of those who have responded so far.
They are ordered chronologically, with Morocco's Ambassador to Bulgaria, H.E. Latifa Akharbach, coming on top after having been the first to respond.
Mrs Akharbach believes 2014 was marked by “strengthening of the civil society and attachment to the European values,“ despite “the multi-faceted crisis lived by Bulgaria in 2014, for internal reasons and because of the complexity and the adversity of the geopolitical situation.“ She points to two the fact that civil society has been enforced “as a protagonist and an important actor in the acceleration of the transition and the preservation of the democratic cape. More audible and better listened to, more determined and better considered, the civil society from now on, is at the heart of the dynamics of the current change and evolution in this wonderful country.“
„I also insist to remind that twice at least, despite the exceptional tough crisis which dominated in 2014, the Bulgarian people reiterated its attachment to the European values: during the European elections of May and on the occasion of the early elections of October,“ she notes further on.
In the words of Ukrainian Ambassador H.E. Mykola Baltazhy, 2014 was “rather good” for Bulgaria, with the country having earned “a new, pro-European government, having reached a coalition agreement and a clear program.” Mr Baltazhy's opinion is also based on the fact that “there is political stability which will be boosted through reform, and elections are not on the agenda anymore.”
French Ambassador H.E. Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes, on the other hand, is less optimistic describing how 2014 unfolded in Bulgaria. His Excellency says “2014 has been another year of disruption and politic and economic disillusions putting to the harsh test the patience of Bulgarians longing for political stability and economic growth.“
„The country would have had to cope with worsening disenchantment of people towards politicians, giving to the new political coalition limited margins of maneuver. Corruption and scandals have highlighted the critical necessity of a in depth reform of the judicial system. In the aftermath of Ukrainian crisis and negative Russian decisions, energetic challenges seem more than ever, critical,“ Mr De Cabanes has said.
H.E. Wei Jinghua, the Chinese Ambassador to Sofia, extending “the warm greetings and best wishes... to all the Bulgarian people,” has rather touched the issue of bilateral relations. “The year 2014 marks an extraordinary milestone in China-Bulgarian relations. We have successfully upgraded our traditional friendship to the Comprehensive Friendly Cooperative Relationship. We celebrated together the 65th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations. Our bilateral relations have entered a brand new phase of development,“ he opines.
As for 2015, he has pointed to the mission of expanding „the cultural, educational and tourism exchanges in order to build an “upgraded version” of China-Bulgaria cooperation and benefit our two peoples.“
Pointing to the fact that Bulgaria has been affected by global and regional developments (and naming the crash of flight MH17 in Ukraine, involving 196 Dutch citizens, tensions in Ukraine itself, Islamic State, Ebola and sanctions on Russia), Dutch Ambassador H.E. Tom van Oorschot calls 2014 “a turbulent year in Bulgaria with three different governments in charge and a complicated result of the early elections in October.“
„This unavoidably slowed down the necessary reform process in many fields. From the positive side, we saw a relatively constructive election campaign and the forming of a complicated but reform minded coalition government. The ambitious interim-government of Georgi Bliznashki laid the foundation for a realistic reform agenda for the economy, the judiciary, the energy sector, the defense and the absorption of the EU-funds, to name a few. All our countries face new challenges to prepare for the future, which requires courageous decisions, also in Bulgaria,“ Mr Oorschot goes on.
„Unfortunately, the scandal with the KTB bank and other corruption cases affected the image of Bulgaria in a negative way. Again from a positive perspective, it is a good sign that people use their democratic right in becoming more vocal and express their discontent with manipulation of their interest, whether it are deposit holders who’s bank accounts were frozen, judges and lawyers who oppose against malpractices in their own organizations or companies who are confronted with corruption by public officers. People should be taken accountable for their deeds. Let’s hope that in this field 2014 was a year of transition,“ in his words.
At the same time he is quite optimistic about 2015, seeing “a window of opportunities“ especially on the political side: „I have confidence that the government Borisov II will build on the reform agenda and will push for the necessary reforms to the benefit of the general interest of the country. The intentions of the government to focus on improving the business climate for SME’s and making the judicial reforms a priority are the right ones. It is clear that an independent reliable judiciary will have a positive effect on the business and investment climate and therefore on economic growth, using the many comparative advantages of this beautiful country in the right way.“
„The strategies and policy frameworks have been formulated. It is now a question of implementation in a transparent and accountable way. This requires a responsible constructive approach of all political parties, politicians and public officers and showing clear results.“
In the words of the Greek Ambassador to Bulgaria, Demosthenis Stoidis, 2014 was a year marked by the semester of the Greek Presidency of the EU Council, which coincided with the successful Bulgarian Presidency of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).
Greece's Ambassador to Bulgaria describes 2014 as “a year of particular significance for energy issues directly concerning our two countries, which have been cooperating closely to achieve energy diversification, including the construction of the Interconnector pipeline IGB.”
“In 2014, our countries also worked closely to address the challenge of immigrant flows and refugees within the EU,” Demosthenis Stoidis states.
“2014 was also the year that saw the significant Greek capital investment in the construction of the ultramodern new shopping center «Sofia Ring»,” he adds.
“I wish and hope that in 2015 similar initiatives will unfold, to the benefit of the peoples of our two neighboring countries,” Greece’s Ambassador to Bulgaria concludes.
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